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The undead are surprisingly well-read

As studying techniques go, reading is lousy. This is pretty bad news if that’s your main method of revision, but it had to be said, so I said it.

If Zombies were to take over the world, they would still study by reading. Unlike mnemonics, mind-mapping or flashcards, you can read without active thought and, whilst they might struggle to operate a Kindle, zombies can turn the pages of a book just fine.

Reading is the perfect study method for zombies. In the George Romero movie ‘Dawn of the Dead‘, the living dead have taken over a shopping mall, but are still milling around the shops and escalators, doing the same mindless things that they did on autopilot when they were still alive.

I can picture them in schools and libraries revising for the ‘advanced brain eating‘ exam, scanning their textbooks with lifeless eyes and dribbling on the pages.

So what can you do to avoid joining the study group of the undead? Where can you turn for advice on how to improve reading comprehension skills? Well, SQ3R is one option.

Introduced by Francis Pleasant Robinson in the 1940s, SQ3R is one of a number of advanced reading strategies that encourage you to engage with the material. It’s effective, but so simple, you’ll wonder why everyone doesn’t use it.

There are five basic steps:

1. Skim
Scan through a chapter of your textbook and look at the structure and scope of the material – headings, subheadings, diagrams, etc. Identify the broad topics that the textbook covers.

2. Question
Brainstorm questions that you think might be answered by the text. For example, if one of the headings is ‘Birth of the combustion engine’, you might devise questions like:

  • Who invented the combustion engine?
  • When was it invented?
  • Did it draw on features of earlier engines?
  • What were the first inventions to take advantage of it?

3. Read
Read through the text looking for the answers to your questions and adding new ones where appropriate.

4. Recite
Using the textbook for reference, in your own words, say the answers to your questions out loud.

5. Review
Without looking at the text book, test yourself on the questions. See how many of the answers you can correctly recall.

That’s it! Congratulations, you can now study better than the walking dead. Now hit those books and try not to eat anyone.

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